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February 9, 2016 | Issue 13
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
the morning shakeout
Trotting around Torrey Pines with Mike Daly of Boom Running on Saturday. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! I’ve been on the road these past few days and feeling a bit under the weather, so no waxing philosophical or overly verbose opining this week. Instead, here are some quick takes on six things I thought were worth sharing. Enjoy!

The heat is on.

The U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is this Saturday in Los Angeles and it’s going to feel more like August than February, which will surely add another twist what was already shaping up to be an unpredictable affair. But hey, that’s racing and all the different elements at play are what make it interesting. I’ve been in San Diego since Friday night and every day has been warmer than the one before it. A dry 70-75 degrees doesn’t sound bad on paper, but when you’re running in downtown L.A. at midday, believe me it’s downright stifling and miserable. 

Greatness takes time.

On the topic of the Olympic Trials Marathon, I was fortunate to spend some time with coach Brad Hudson in Boulder last fall and have had a few follow-up phone calls with him in the months since. I really like what he’s done with his Hudson Elite squad in recent years, but also what he’s doing to try and elevate American marathon running in general. I’d argue he’s done more to change American runners’ perception of “marathon training” than any other domestic coach with perhaps the exception of Keith and Kevin Hanson. Brad’s a wealth of knowledge on marathon training and always willing to share what he knows, which isn’t as common as you’d think amongst many cagey top-level coaches. I wrote a profile of Brad this week, and I shamelessly suggest that you check it out. When I asked 2:11 marathoner Fernando Cabada about the biggest lessons Brad has taught him in their time working together, Fernando summed up Brad’s approach to marathon training quite nicely. “The biggest lesson I have learned working with Brad is that marathon training is hard,” Cabada admitted. “I mean, really hard.”

Free the internet.

Do you pay a small monthly fee to read articles on your favorite website? If you had no choice, would you? That’s the direction Wired is heading, whether you find banner ads and pop-ups bothersome or not. “The portion of [Wired’s] readership that uses ad blockers are likely to be receptive to a discussion about their responsibility to support the businesses they rely on for information online,” according to Mark McClusky, the magazine’s head of product and business development. I’m not sure I agree with that statement on a widespread level but hey, a buck a week for all you can read and watch on a site you visit often isn’t a bad deal. I’m actually in favor of a subscription-based revenue model for websites over traditional banner advertising, which is often an eyesore, clunky and, let’s face it, largely ineffective for the advertiser. Why a subscription model? A couple reasons: 1. Good content has value, and if readers perceive something they want as valuable and necessary, they’re more willing (and likely) to pay for it. 2. If readers are paying for content, there’s an expectation of quality, which puts publishers under the gun to produce stuff that people want to read or watch. That said, I don’t think we’ll ever see advertising totally go away because readers are too conditioned to reading and viewing free content at this point of the internet’s existence. Many publishers will be forced to strike a balance between subscriptions and advertising, because contrary to what McClusky says, I don’t think that many readers will ever understand “their responsibility to support the businesses they rely on for information online.” Also, for folks who visit a ton of websites on a regular basis, a bunch of 4-5 (or more) dollar-a-month subscriptions will add up quickly, and I can’t see that sitting too well either. 

On winning and cheating.

Winning and other forms of success can affect people in different ways, but can trying to beat your biggest rival (i.e., winning by way of social comparison) be more likely to lead to future instances of unethical behavior than aiming to set a personal best (i.e., fixed goal) in your next race? A couple researchers seem to think so. “Feelings of power, whether it comes from wealth, a person’s position in a hierarchical structure or in this case competition, can indeed lead to various abuses like lying and stealing.”

Silly splits.

Speaking of cheating, news broke last week that members of “Ma’s Army” were doped to the gills in the mid-90s, which comes as a surprise to pretty much no one. If a signed 20-year-old letter from members of the Chinese training group alleging that “For many years, [Ma Junwen] forced us to take a large dose of illegal drugs. It was true,” isn’t enough to make you think that there was something fishy going on, Wang Junxia’s splits from her still-standing 10,000m world record of 29:31.78 might cement your belief: 15:05.69 first 5K, 14:26 second 5K (11 seconds faster than the world record at the time) with an 8:17.5 final 3K (5 seconds ahead of the WR at the time). Of course, the track might have been short or maybe the timers missed a lap, but what do I know? 

Who controls the story?

As I first mentioned in Issue 3, platforms like The Players’ Tribune are changing the way athletes’ stories are getting told to their fans. Rather than relying on reporters to string together a narrative, athletes are increasingly doing more of it themselves, according to CBS Sports, either through their own social media channels or on sites like TPT, Uninterrupted and Unscriptd. Why? It all comes down to who is controlling the story. "You get total control over every single part of the article and what comes out," Kevin Durant said. "I think players are gravitating towards that a little bit more because it's 100 percent your voice.” I can see the appeal here for athletes and fans alike, but—and I realize this might come across as biased from someone who works in media—I also think there will always be a desire (and need) for objective reporting. I don’t believe first-person publications and traditional media outlets have to exist in conflict, however (although in some cases they most certainly will); fuller, more engaging stories can be told with a little more respect and understanding from both sides.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. If you liked these bite-sized nuggets, let me know by replying to this email or throwing them back at me on Twitter. And if you’re so inclined to Tweet the web link or share it on your Facebook page, that would be swell too. 

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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